Into enemy territory

Into enemy territory

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Using folding boats, long-range reconnaissance forces can infiltrate the hinterland of the enemy if necessary. But handling a kayak requires practice. That is exactly what happens in the Klietz training area.

Two soldiers wearing face covers paddle a kayak on the water.

Folding boats are almost purpose-built for infiltration.

Bundeswehr/Christian Vierfuß

Three folding boats with two long-range reconnaissance soldiers each glide slowly across Klietzer Lake. The paddles move in perfect sync. Calm strokes, constant speed. The team’s boats keep a distance of around a boat length from one another. Stabsfeldwebel Horst Graber, watching from shore, looks pleased. “Just a question of practice,“ the instructor from Seedorf murmurs, lost in thought, nodding to himself.

Depending on the mission, the folding boats can be used to infiltrate the employment area. The boats are about five metres long and carry two soldiers and their equipment. An outer skin of waterproofed linen and rubber is stretched around a wooden frame. The boats themselves weigh around 30 kilos empty and can be loaded with about 380 kilos. “Our folks have to assemble the boats themselves,” Grabert says. “That is something we also train extensively here.”

Operations in inland waters

Two soldiers wearing face covers paddle a kayak across the water; another two-person kayak is in the background.

The boats can carry two soldiers and their equipment.

Bundeswehr/Christian Vierfuß

Folding boats are suited primarily for inland waters. Long-range reconnaissance forces can follow the course of a river far into the interior, for instance. “Just how far depends mainly on the window of opportunity for the mission,” Grabert says. Infiltration by boat is time-consuming; speed depends on many factors, not least currents and wind. During a mission, the soldiers move only at night, which further complicates navigation. And the members of the team must not lose contact with each other. To internalise basic skills for use on operations, every module is trained exhaustively in Klietz. While paddling across the lake, the soldiers pause regularly in order to listen. To do that, the boats are nested, or lined up closely end to end, to make communications easier. After a short halt, the soldiers continue on.

Many, many paddle strokes

Two soldiers sit in a kayak. One paddles, the other points his weapon toward the shore.

Handling a boat needs to be practised.

Bundeswehr/Christian Vierfuß

To find the right rhythm, the soldiers need to practise. Accordingly, a tour on the Havel river has been ordered for the next day. “There are around 30 kilometres and three locks between here and Havelberg,” Grabert says. Many, many paddle strokes. “Just so the guys can finally get some kilometres under their belts. So everybody knows what it feels like and has time to improve their technique.” Another challenge is to stay together as a team and not lose contact with each other.

In a fluid movement, the leader suddenly thrusts his paddle into the air with both hands and the others relay the sign. “Military visual signal, means they’re assembling now,” Grabert says. Shortly after, the boats are nested. Apparently, a suitable landing zone has been spotted. One boat breaks off to scout, the rest of the team remains in cover close by.

A soldier disembarks from a kayak on the shore.

A long-range reconnaissance soldier reaches the landing zone with his folding boat.

Bundeswehr/Christian Vierfuß

After that, things happen very quickly. Another tactical signal and the other boats follow suit. The soldiers in their black dry suits go ashore, secure the area, and vanish into the forest. “If they were on operations, they would need to hide the boats and the suits now. Then they begin to move toward the objective.” They might use the kayaks again to exfiltrate.

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